Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Sins of philosophers

In July 22, 2013 New Yorker, James Wood writes:

Almost twenty years ago, George Steiner suggested in these pages that doing philosophy was incompatible with domestic life. Speaking of the troubled French thinker Louis Althusser, Steiner proposed that sometimes it might be necessary for a philosopher to strangle his wife. (As, alas, Althusser did.) There is something vulgar and absurd, he continued, in the notion of a Mrs. Plato, a Madame Descartes. You cannot commit to taking out the garbage or doing the dishes while also solving the problem of the cogito or announcing the death of God. Being George Steiner, he charged his argument with bolts of existential electricity. In his reading, Zarathustra is at best a rough, undomesticated beast and at worst a murderous lunatic. Up on Olympus you feel free, not in the kitchen or the faculty lounge.
I have always liked Tolstoy’s diary entry from 1863: “Family happiness completely absorbs me, and it’s impossible to do anything.” Tolstoy is indeed the great novelist of family happiness, but delight is tempered by the vision of the father and husband he became—selfish, tyrannical, more faithful to his literary and religious followers than to his biological successors. Even gentle Chekhov joked that he would prefer a wife “who, like the moon, won’t appear in my sky every day.” He contrived to marry late in his short life, and spent much of his marriage in Yalta, while Olga Knipper worked a thousand miles away, in Moscow....

No comments: